New Iberian Caleb Sumrall planned to be in New York state today renewing acquaintances with smallmouth bass in Cayuga Lake, the longest of New York’s Finger Lakes.
But the best-laid plans of man and the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society got waylaid by COVID-19. The Bassmaster Elite Series tournament July 14-17 on the lake near the Village of Union Springs, New York, was canceled Wednesday.
The Cayuga Lake tournament would have been the first of three straight tournaments in as many weeks in New York. However, in late June, New York’s governor released guidelines for professional sports competitions that include diagnostic testing and protocols for daily health screenings for all athletes and staff along with many other safety and social distancing measures.
Also, fans and spectators are banned from attending events, even those outdoors, in the state.
Sumrall, who was going to start the 24-hour plus drive from New Iberia to Cayuga Lake this past Thursday, said, “It is what it is. I’m sure B.A.S.S. did everything they could do to facilitate it to make it happen.”
B.A.S.S. plans to reschedule the Cayuga Lake tournament at another fishery later in the season. The other two tournaments — July 23-26 at the St. Lawrence River and July 30-Aug. 2 at Lake Champlain —— scheduled in New York are on as of Friday.
“B.A.S.S. is doing everything possible within the guidelines to make sure everyone is safely on the water and fishing our events. Every major professional sports league is instituting testing protocols and working to develop new competition plans that adhere to strict health and safety guidelines, and we’ll evolve and enhance our plans as need to work toward our goal of completing the 2020 Bassmasster Elite season,” B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin said in a prepared statement.
The 33-year-old Sumrall, a third-year bass pro on the Bassmaster Elite Series, is chomping at the bit to fish competitively again. He isn’t alone, he said Friday morning from his home in rural Iberia Parish.
“We’re hanging in there, waiting on go,” Sumrall said about himself and the other 87 Elites.
Yes, he said, he was disappointed because Cayuga Lake is one of his favorite lakes in the Northeast. It’s a great bass fishery with predominantly smallmouth and some largemouth, he said.
“I wanted to fish all three events in New York. I understand there’s nothing that could have been done,” he said.
Sumrall finished 36th with 33 pounds, 3 ounces, in the Elite stop in August 2019 at Cayuga Lake. Micah Frazier of Newnan, Georgia, won the event with 87 pounds, 4 ounces, just ahead of Canadian Chris Johnston’s 86-6.
So it’s on to the next stop, hopefully, at the St. Lawrence River near Waddington, New York. He was 18th there with 58 pounds, 3 ounces, in August 2019.
“It’ll be a slugfest for sure. It is every year we go,” Sumrall said.
Can he slug it out with the other bass pros on the St. Lawrence River?
“I can hold my own for sure,” he said, confidently.
Past experience there and preliminary plans call for him to throw “a mixture of smallmouth baits — drop shots, tubes, swim baits, a whole bunch of stuff, actually,” he said.
“I’m ready to get back to it. I know there are a lot of uncertainties but I’m beyond ready to get back. I’ve been home too long,” he said.
Since the last Elite tournament June 10-13 at Lake Eufala, Alabama, where he was 26th with 50 pounds, 7 ounces, Sumrall has been enjoying bassin’ at its best in the Atchafalaya Basin. He was glad to get back out in the nation’s last great overflow swamp, which fell to a fishable level in late June.
“It feels good, you know. That’s something I look forward to every year. (But) it seems like it’s fishing smaller and smaller every year, that’s for sure,” he said.
Sumrall goes into the next Elite tournament in 30th place in the Elite standings for AOY with 128 points. He finished 48th in the opener on the St. Johns River in Florida.
While Sumrall fully understands the circumstances but expressed some disappointment at the Cayuga Lake cancelation, Bassmaster Elite Series veteran David Fritts was comfortable staying home in relative safety in North Carolina. At 63 and at a higher risk to get the coronavirus than younger Elites, Fritts told bassfan.com, “I hate that we’re going to miss it because I love that kind of fishing, but to go there and back and stay in motels and all that, it’s sort of scary for someone my age. What it boils down to is there’s things that are more important in life and there might’ve been a time when I wouldn’t have said that, but now I know it’s true.
“We’ve got two more up there and everything about them hasn’t been defined, either. (COVID-19) is a bad deal and if I get it, I might not survive it. I’m not scared to death but I know I’m pretty safe where I am. I think it was a good decision.”